Hundreds of jobs expected to be lost at Newtownabbey sites

Paul Girvan MP.
Paul Girvan MP.

Over 200 jobs could be lost with the closure of the Schlumberger plant in Monkstown, while nearly 150 jobs have been lost at Williams Industrial Services in Mallusk.

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Officer for Schlumberger condemned the confirmation by Schlumberger corporate management that they would reject a management rescue bid and proceed to close their Newtownabbey site.

She said: “This decision demonstrates very clearly that corporate profits are the only determinant when it comes to Schlumberger corporate management. Today they confirmed to workforce representatives that they had rejected a local management counterproposal which offered a way to save some of the jobs on site through production diversification.

“The proposal would have resulted in a significant increase in operating utilisation rates but was rejected by a corporate management who remain intent on offshoring production to low cost centres in Mexico and China and back to the United States.

“Regardless of the huge profits that they have made from this workforce Schlumberger’s sole objective appears to maximise profits through a race to the bottom on labour costs. Mexico and China are renowned for their exploitative wage rates and we ask whether the corporate management team have been motivated by the ‘America First’ perspective propounded by Washington.”

Ms Fitzgerald added: “Their overall justification for the closure has been surplus capacity as a result of a downturn in the oil and gas sector but the signs of pick-up is now undeniable. The Baker-Hughes rig count indicates that the total number of oil rigs has surged to 2,026 globally – an increase of 416 over the past year.

“This is all about increasing profits for shareholders. In the third quarter of 2017 alone Schlumberger reported a net income of $545 million – but this is not enough for them. Earnings per share have risen from $0.25 to $0.42 in the last year reflecting a corporate decision to prioritise shareholders over investment for the future when in 2013 they launched a six-year $10 billion share buy-back scheme.

“This is not a company under pressure but one making huge profits. Today in summarily rejecting the proposal and proceeding with their plans to close the plant, they have demonstrated clearly that the interests of shareholders trumps any semblance of corporate responsibility.

“Unite will be meeting with our representatives from the plant tomorrow morning to decide our response to this decision.”

In a separate development, over 140 jobs have been lost at Williams Industrial Services in Mallusk after the engineering firm went into administration.

South Antrim DUP MP Paul Girvan is calling for an urgent meeting with the administrators.

Mr Girvan said: “This is another devastating blow for local families and to the local economy of South Antrim.

“Williams Industrial Services are a long established and highly respected manufacturing firm, and news of their going into administration is a huge shock.

“I am seeking an urgent meeting with the administrators to see if anything can be done, even at this stage. It is also vital that those facing immediate redundancy are given the support they need at this difficult time.

“With the situation at Schlumberger looking bleak, this is regrettably another dark day for our local economy.”

Commenting on the potential job losses at Schlumberger and WIS, South Antrim UUP MLA Steve Aiken said: “Terrible news coupled with the shutting of Williams Industrial Services with loss of 150 jobs as well is bad not only for South Antrim, but also for all manufacturing in NI - if ever we needed a manufacturing strategy, it is now.”